Effective management of wastewater in the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) has for several decades been, and remains, a significant challenge faced by the region. Regional governments have long recognized that land-based sources of pollution from municipal, industrial and agricultural sectors and their negative impacts on marine resources are a threat to the region’s economic development and the quality of life of its people.
Recent studies have shown that untreated sewage is one of the major threats to public health and the Region’s rich biodiversity and is the result of rapidly expanding urban populations, poorly planned development, and inadequate or poorly designed and malfunctioning sewage treatment facilities. As a result:
- 85% of wastewater entering the Caribbean Sea remains untreated
- 51.5% of households lack sewer connections
- Only 17% of households are connected to acceptable collection and treatment systems.
With respect to biodiversity, the study found that sewage was one of the main factors that had caused approximately 80 percent (80%) of living coral in the Caribbean to be lost over the past twenty years. The high rates of pollution also negatively impact the fishing industry and the tourism sectors.
In evaluating the underlying reasons for this persistent problem, studies have shown that there are three significant challenges: inadequate policy and legal framework, insufficient financing and the low priority placed on waste water treatment. The WCR suffers from a dearth of integrated strategic policy instruments and supporting laws and regulations to effectively and sustainably manage the wastewater sector.
The CReW project is intended to support the WCR in addressing these three main challenges.
Development of wastewater infrastructure in the Region is affected by:
- Low priority given to the development of the wastewater sector
- Capacity constraints of many utilities and other service providers
- A lack of sufficient and stable long-term funding for utilities
- Inadequate and poorly enforced policies and laws
- Poor communication and collaboration amongst involved agencies
- Limited awareness, knowledge and understanding of alternative and appropriate treatment technologies; and
- Limitations in technical capacity for environmental management.
In 1999, acknowledging that sewage is the number one point source of marine pollution in the region, Governments of the Wider Caribbean Region signaled their commitment to reduce marine pollution from untreated wastewater by agreeing to the Protocol on the Control of Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution (LBS Protocol). The LBS Protocol forms part of the only legally binding regional agreement for the protection and development of the Caribbean Sea – the Cartagena convention.
Its entry into force in 2010 committed the Governments which ratified or acceded to making major improvements in wastewater management by introducing innovative and cost effective treatment technologies, improving policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks, and expanding access to affordable financing.
One of the objectives of the GEF CReW project is to assist countries who have ratified the Protocol to meet their national obligations and also to encourage non-Contracting Parties to ratify the LBS Protocol. Out of the 28 countries of the Wider Caribbean Region, 11 are Contracting Parties to the LBS Protocol and six of these are participating in the GEF CReW Project.
The CReW is designed to help. What is the CReW?
The GEF funded Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW) is a four-year project that began in 2011. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The increasing demand for sustainable financing for implementing cost-effective, appropriate solutions to pollution problems including those resulting from poor wastewater management means that the CReW project offers great potential for replication, not just within the region, but globally. Implementation of the GEF CreW Project is a small but notable step to safeguard human health while securing our natural resources and ensuring their continued contribution to national and regional economic development.
It is an integrated and innovative approach to reducing the negative environmental and human health impacts of untreated wastewater discharges. At the regional level, it has catalyzed a unique partnership between the IDB, UNEP and the Secretariat for the Cartagena Convention. At the country level, project implementation is further supported by partnerships between wastewater utilities, Ministries of Environment, Finance, Health, Education, and local communities.
It aims to:
- Provide sustainable financing for the wastewater sector
- Support policy and legislative reforms, and
- Foster regional dialogue and knowledge exchange amongst key stakeholders in the WCR.
There are three interlinked components:
- Investment and Sustainable Financing
- Reforms for Wastewater Management
- Communications, Outreach and Training
End of project scenario:
- An increase in the number of wastewater treatment facilities constructed or rehabilitated through implementation of first generation projects
- Improved technical capacity in the wastewater sector
- Greater national and regional capacity for effective wastewater
- Reduced land-based pollution to terrestrial and coastal waters from untreated wastewater.
Component 1: Investment and Sustainable Financing (executed by the IDB) – aims to test four individual Pilot financing mechanisms (PFMs) that will provide innovative financing modalities for wastewater management projects. CReW resources are being used for capitalization of these four PFMs, and for providing technical assistance, such as design services, to ensure that the projects to be financed satisfy the technical, financial, socio-economic and environmental requirements of the CReW and local governments.
Wastewater management projects financed by the PFMs will:
- Be high priority projects for wastewater service providers;
- Have high impact in terms of significant improvements or prevention from further deterioration in the quality of coastal waters;
- Have potential to stimulate policy reforms; and
- Require innovative financial and advisory assistance to bring project financing costs within ratepayers’ ability to pay.
- Pilot projects in four Participating Countries – Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago – are testing four individual PFMs.
Component 2: Reforms for Wastewater Management (executed by UNEP CAR/RCU) – aims to address key capacity constraints within legal, institutional and policy frameworks by:
- Improving skills and knowledge at the national and local level needed for policy formulation, planning and financing in water, sanitation and wastewater management.
- Developing tools to improve and strengthen the legislative framework for wastewater management, including improving compliance with obligations of the Cartagena Convention and its Protocol on Land-Based Sources of Pollution, with the support of the Convention’s Secretariat, the Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (CAR/RCU).
- Developing education and awareness programmes about wastewater and sanitation targeting local and national governments, the media, the formal education system, community members and the general public, including training for decision-makers on the choice of appropriate and cost-effective technologies for wastewater management.
Component 3: Communication, Outreach and Training (executed by UNEP CAR/RCU) focuses upon:
- Dissemination of information to counterpart agencies, implementing partners and related programmes; documentation of lessons learned and best practice in case studies and experience notes; support for training developed by the project; and the development of educational and public awareness materials for a range of target audiences.
- Sharing project information and results through the GEF International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network (IW:LEARN) and other relevant fora.
The Project Coordination Group (PCG), based in Jamaica, carries out the day-to-day management of the CReW project under the oversight of UNEP and IDB, and comprises a Project Coordinator, a Technical Specialist, a Communications Specialist and a Financial /Administrative Specialist.
The PCG is supported by Pilot Executing Agencies (PEA) in the four countries that have pilot projects: the National Water Commission in Jamaica; the Ministry of Finance in Belize; the Ministry of Housing and Water in Guyana, and the Tobago House of Assembly in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Secretariat of the Cartagena Convention (CAR/RCU) based in Kingston, Jamaica, is responsible for Components 2 and 3 of the project and as such is the Project’s Regional Implementation Agency.
National capacity building activities under CReW Component 2 are being executed through a series of Small-Scale Funding Agreements (SSFAs) negotiated between UNEP Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (CAR RCU) and the respective governments. The activities taking place in each country have been informed by national baseline assessments and respond to priority needs in those countries. At the broader regional level, development of policy and regulatory templates and models will further guide national policy reforms.